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In becoming the first athlete to win five gold medals in individual events at one Olympic Games, Winter or Summer, Eric Heiden has established himself as one of the greatest of Olympians. To fully appreciate Heiden's feat, it should be noted that Mark Spitz' seven golds at the 1972 Summer Games included only four in individual events, the others coming in relays. Spitz was one of half a dozen Olympians who won four individual golds at a single Games, another being a speed skater, the U.S.S.R.'s Lydia Skoblikova, who swept four women's events in 1964. The five golds apiece won by Italy's Nedo Nadi in fencing in 1920 and by Finland's Paavo Nurmi in track in 1924 included "team" golds in each instance—three for Nadi and two for Nurmi.
Heiden's hoard also outglitters those of such storied Olympians as Jesse Owens and Fanny Blankers-Koen, whose four golds in track in 1936 and 1948, respectively, each included a relay, and Nadia Comaneci, who took three individual golds in '76. In winning events ranging from 500 to 10,000 meters, Heiden exhibited a combination of speed and endurance that more than compensated for the fact that speed skating is a somewhat less than universal activity.
Together with the gold medal taken by the U.S. hockey team, Heiden's performance meant that all six U.S. victories at Lake Placid were achieved on ice, as were all three of our wins at Innsbruck in 1976. Interestingly, at the '76 Olympics in Montreal, 15 of the U.S.'s 34 gold medals—13 in swimming and two in diving—came in water, the substance beneath Eric's flying blades. For U.S. Olympians H2O=Au, that's for sure.
OLYMPIC HOCKEY VS. BRAND X
On the same historic night that the U.S. Olympic hockey team held the nation in thrall by beating the Soviet Union 4-3, the National Hockey League, whose All-Stars had been humbled by essentially the same Soviet squad last February, was displaying its brand of hockey in Vancouver. While the showdown in Lake Placid produced nothing even remotely resembling a fight, the NHL game—in which the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Canucks 7-3—was marred by the ejection of 16 players, eight from each side, most of them because of their involvement in a bench-clearing brawl in the third period that delayed the game for 45 minutes.
TROUBLE AT TROY
In a self-congratulatory mood, Southern Cal Football Coach John Robinson told SI a few weeks ago that he prided himself on having encouraged his players to "work towards a true education." Last week a considerably more subdued Robinson spoke of having experienced "a personal sense of failure." That confession was prompted by a revelation in the campus newspaper that 34 USC athletes, most of them football players, were enrolled last semester in speech courses they didn't attend. The Daily Trojan further reported that the professor who taught the courses, USC Debate Coach John DeBross, had resigned and that Athletic Director Dr. Richard Perry had suspended the football team's academic counselor, Jeff Birren.
Perry confirmed the Daily Trojan story and said he had learned of the irregularities involving the speech courses last Dec. 7. The Trojan reported that several football players had then been given a five-day "crash course" to make up the missed classes, that other players had received incomplete grades and that two team members had been listed as "illegally registered." However, Perry insisted that none of this adversely affected player eligibility for the Rose Bowl, in which USC beat Ohio State 17-16. Nevertheless, USC has ordered further investigation.